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Books

This is an incomplete list of (non-programming, non-fiction) books I have read. Some have links to notes I’ve taken or others have, a quick description, or an opinion. I regularly add new books to the top of this list as I read them. Use at your own peril.

Books I particularly enjoyed or recommend are marked ⭐️.

(PS. If you’re struggling to read a lot of books, listen to The Podcast 43 where I explain how I got to a rate of 25-30 books per year)

Debt: The First 5,000 YearsAmazonAudible — WIP

Domain-Driven Design — WIP

Thinking in SystemsAmazon — WIP

Skunk Works

Insanely Simple

A Guide to the Good LifeAmazonAudible

Notes. A modern, approachable guide to Stoicism — a philosophy of life whose goal is to maximize the experience of tranquility. This is a seriously useful bag of psychological tricks.

Bad ScienceAmazonAudible

How to Read a BookAmazonAudible

A very meta book with some serious advice on how to read books well. Frustratingly long for its content, though.

Fooled by RandomnessAmazonAudible

Notes. Ramblings about randomness and all the ways in which our minds aren’t properly equipped to deal with it.

Sleep SmarterAmazonAudible

Notes. Practical advice on how to improve the quality of your sleep. Quality is the key word — there are more factors come into play than just the amount of sleep.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!AmazonAudible

A collection of stories from Richard Feynman’s life. Very entertaining.

This Is Your Brain on ParasitesAmazonAudible

Another biology-related book. Explores the role of parasites (and bacteria, disease, disgust) in human behavior, attraction, even politics, morality, religion. Some of this is is cutting-edge, speculative, or not fully proven — but very interesting stuff indeed.

Life AscendingAmazonAudible

An earlier biology book by Nick Lane. With his characteristic richness of detail, it explores the evolution of DNA, photosynthesis, movement, sight, sex, consciousness, and death.

The Vital QuestionAmazonAudible

A fascinating book exploring the role of energy in biology and evolution. It explains how eucaryotic life emerged and why it grew in complexity, while bacteria have remained unchanged in their simplicity for billions of years. It also presents the best theory of abiogenesis we have, and a lot more.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a FuckAmazonAudible

Notes. Despite the (intentionally) provocative title, the book actually has some pretty good life advice. A modern take on Stoic philosophy, among other things. Quite entertaining. YMMV.

2016

Guns, Germs, and SteelAmazonAudible

Theory of history of human civilizations. This fascinating book explains why Eaurasians came to dominate most of the world, why native American, Australian, and sub-Saharan African peoples never had a good chance; and why European diseases decimated the native American population, but not the other way around.

Why I Left Goldman SachsAmazonAudible

A story about inner workings of the financial sector from someone who worked and succeeded at Goldman Sachs for over a decade. An enjoyable read.

Ego is the EnemyAmazonAudible

Notes. At every point in your life, your ego is the enemy. You know this, I hope, but we all need this reminder to get back to earth.

Finansowy NinjaBuy

🇵🇱 Notatki Podręcznik finansów osobistych. Podstawy, które każdy powinien znać (a nie każdy zna), i wskazówki, gdzie iść dalej.

A Man on the MoonAmazonAudible

The history of the Apollo program. Worth a read if you’re into space, though a bit long.

Under New ManagementAmazonAudible

Notes. Modern companies inherited its management philosophy from the industrial age. But the nature of today’s work is very different. The book offers a bunch of ideas for how to run organizations better.

DisruptedAmazonAudible

A hilarious and terrifying story of a startup. If you enjoy Silicon Valley, you’ll appreciate this book.

PeakAmazonAudible

Notes. Forget about natural talent — it’s bullshit. Skills are not innate, but developed through practice — lots of it. And not just any practice, but the kind that leverages the talent all of us have: malleability of our brains. And this book is all about it.

The Now HabitAmazonAudible

Notes. A guide to procrastination: why we do it, how we do it, and a number of tips and strategies to help overcome it. Overall a dry read, but there are a few bits I found useful.

The InevitableAmazonAudible

Notes. A story about how the world will change in the next few decades. The nature of technology available today makes certain trends almost inevitable. Even though the exact future is unknowable, we can still extrapolate from high-level trends to make some good predictions about the future.

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical AgeAmazonAudible

To me, this biography of Nikola Tesla is a cautionary tale of what happens when you start believing you’re the smartest person on Earth. After a brilliant invention and commercial success of his induction motor, he created nothing else of great significance. He promised a lot, but delivered nothing.

Smarter Faster BetterAmazonAudible

Notes. Stories and case studies about the invisible forces that shape how productive we are — both individually, and in organizations. A good read.

The Gene ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

The fascinating history of genetics, told from the very beginning up until today. Covers the broad range of genetics-related science, its development, and its implications. Long, but very well written, and a pleasure to read (or listen to).

Naked StatisticsAmazonAudible

The book’s stated goal is to convey an intuitive (as in: very little math) understanding of statistics, and I think it succeeds at that. It shows both the awesome power of statistics (for research, science, predictions) and the dangers of its misuse.

Naked MoneyAmazonAudible

An interesting read about macroeconomics, the nature of money, the role of central banking, and other related topics. Lots of history, and packed into a very enjoyable and approachable book.

How to Fly a Horse ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Notes. More stories and insight on creativity. In particular, the book makes a strong case for just how ordinary creativity is, and makes you notice the things that hold us back from creating or lead us astray when we do.

Originals ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Notes. Good advice for generating, recognizing, and championing original ideas, as well as for creating resilient cultures that promote creative thinking, and resist groupthink. A lot of stuff to unpack, a good read.

4 Disciplines of ExecutionAmazonAudible

Notes. A system for pursuing goals, keeping track of progress, and making sure they ultimately get done. Useful in organizations and individuals. You won’t find the ideas very innovative, but the approach is helpful, and yet not something we tend to do. Worth a read if you have goals you have trouble actually finding time for.

Start with WhyAmazonAudible

We tend to focus on the “what” and “how” of our companies and products. This manifesto reminds us to always start with “why” — the reason we do the things we do, to let that guide our decisions, the whats and hows. Personally, I found the book neither very insightful nor inspiring, but YMMV.

Whole Earth DisciplineAmazonAudible

An ecopragmatist book making a compelling argument that urbanization, nuclear energy, and genetic engineering are good for the environment and must be pursued. This is all counterintuitive — environmental movement traditionally despises those things. But we’ve gone so far changing Earth, there might not be another choice.

Deep Work ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Notes. Yes, yes, yes! We live very distracted lives and most of our working days are filled with shallow tasks and interruptions. Although programmers get the importance of flow, it’s so hard to achieve. Our environments don’t support it, and shallow work is just easier. The book makes a compelling case for why we should double down on deep work, and offers some practical strategies for achieving it.

Zero to OneAmazonAudible

Notes. Thoughts on building innovative new companies. There’s some startup BS in Zero to One that turned me off, but still enough interesting insight to recommend the book.

Industries of the FutureAmazonAudible

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well-prepared for what’s to come in the next few decades. Still, things will change, and this book offers one perspective at the industries that will flourish, and how wealth will be distributed in the world.

NarconomicsAmazonAudible

If you’ve enjoyed Narcos, you’ll like this book. The world of drugs, cartels, gangs, violence, and prisons looked at from the perspective of an economist.

Your Brain at WorkAmazonAudible

Notes (More notes). A lot of knowledge about how our brains work, packed into useful, practical terms. Understanding this stuff will help you be more productive, deal with stress and emotions better, even get better at working with and influencing other people.

Sapiens ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

The history of humankind from 2 million years back all the way until today. Fascinating read. I liked that it wasn’t just a list of events, but an overarching “theory of history”. Also enjoyed that this one topic was presented through many lenses: history, evolutionary biology, archeology, economics, even philosophy and theology.

Good to GreatAmazonAudible

Notes. A research-based look at what causes companies to move from mediocre or good to great performance. Not super engaging to read, but the methodology behind the book gives its ideas more credibility.

The Everything StoreAmazonAudible

A biography of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. An enjoyable read, some history, and some insight.

Why We Get Fat ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Notes. Before I read this book, my understanding of what makes us fat (what made me fat!) was highly mistaken. That, or this book is bullshit. But I don’t think so. My research and experience applying the lessons so far seem to confirm it. Hard to argue with 10kg lost in 4 months with little effort.

The ONE ThingAmazonAudible

Notes. A few great insights, but also some cringeworthy parts. Would recommend Essentialism over this one.

59 SecondsAmazonAudible

Notes. A big collection of easy life ideas based off of psychology research. Some good ones, lots of meh though.

2015

The Innovator’s DillemaAmazon
The Innovator’s SolutionAmazonAudible

Important classics if you’re interested in understanding what makes businesses fail or succeed. Boring at times.

The Checklist ManifestoAmazonAudible

A short read to remind us to always. make. checklists. Sounds like an idea not deserving a book, but it does. Recommended as an audiobook.

Elon Musk (Ashlee Vance) • AmazonAudible

Great stories from Elon Musk’s youth, early companies, Tesla, and SpaceX. Many I’ve never heard before.

So Good They Can’t Ignore YouAmazonAudible

Notes. They always say to follow your passion. But it’s actually a terrible career advice. The book offers an alternative model to think of your career more compelling than that.

Essentialism ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

A manifesto for doing less and focusing on the essential. Stop pretending there are no trade-offs. Recommended read.

Superintelligence ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Super fascinating, and incredibly scary read about general artificial superintelligence. Amazing read. Highly recommended as an audiobook (fantastic narrator perfect for the topic).

Creativity Inc.AmazonAudible

Notes. Management and leadership stories and lessons from Pixar. Too long IMHO, but enjoyed it.

Making Ideas HappenAmazonAudible

Boring. Few compelling ideas.

The Millionaire Next DoorAmazonAudible

Our preconceptions of what most millionaires are like are likely way off. An interesting read, though a bit old.

Becoming Steve JobsAmazonAudible

The best biography of Steve I’ve read.

OutliersAmazonAudible
BlinkAmazonAudible
David and GoliathAmazonAudible
The Tipping PointAmazonAudible

Notes. Great reads from Malcolm Gladwell. I liked Outliers best, but it was my first one, so that might be a bias.

QuietAmazonAudible

About introversion. If you’re an introvert, you’ll like this book. If you’re not, you should read this book.

Older reads

The Healthy ProgrammerAmazonAudible

Notes. Refactoring your health for programmers.

The Mythical Man-MonthAmazon

A very old book about the practice of software development. Interesting both how much and how little has changed since the 70s.

PeoplewareAmazon

Notes. On managing software develope teams — not the technical side, but the soft human side.

The Lean StartupAmazonAudible

Notes. Some good insights, if you can stand the Silicon Valley startup BS lingo.

The Power of Habit ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

Notes. Essential read, a manual for your brain (RTFM)

REMOTEAmazonAudible

37 Signals/Basecamp’s lessons learned from running a remote, office-less company.

REWORK ⭐️ • AmazonAudible

A manifesto / collection of short essays about how to run a company in the digital era. Delightful. Shaped my thinking greatly when I first read it, now it just seems like common sense.

How Will You Measure Your LifeAmazonAudible

Notes. Ideas from Clay Christensen’s business theory (disruption theory etc.) applied as lenses to look at life.

Poke the BoxAmazonAudible
Linchpin ⭐️ • AmazonAudible
The Icarus DeceptionAmazonAudible
What To Do When It’s Your TurnAmazon

I love Seth Godin’s insights! Linchpin in particular is a worthy read, and had a big impact on me.